AI Might Not Be the Most Intelligent Business Solution

April 21, 2017

Big data was the buzzword a few years ago, but now artificial intelligence is the tech jargon of the moment.  While big data was a more plausible solution for companies trying to mine information from their digital data, AI is proving difficult to implement.  Forbes discusses AI difficulties in the article, “Artificial Intelligence Is Powerful Stuff, But Difficult To Scale To Real-Life Business.”

There is a lot of excitement brewing around machine learning and AI business possibilities, while the technology is ready for use, workers are not.  People need to be prepped and taught how to use AI and machine learning technology, but without the proper lessons, it will hurt a company’s bottom line.  The problem comes from companies rolling out digital solutions, without changing the way they conduct business.  Workers cannot just adapt to changes instantly.  They need to feel like they are part of the solution, instead of being shifted to the side in the latest technological trend.

CIO for the Federal Communications Commission Dr. David Bray said that:

The growth of AI may shift thinking in organizations. ‘At the end of the day, we are changing what people are doing,; Bray says. ‘You are changing how they work, and they’re going to feel threatened if they’re not bought into the change. It’s almost imperative for CIOs to really work closely with their chief executive officers, and serve as an internal venture capitalist, for how we bring data, to bring process improvements and organizational performance improvements – and work it across the entire organization as a whole.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are an upgrade to not only a company’s technology but also how a company conducts business.  Business processes will need to be updated to integrate the new technology, but also how workers will use and interface it.  Businesses will continue facing problems if they think that changing technology, but not their procedures are the final solution.

Whitney Grace, April 21, 2017

The Design Is Old School, but the Info Is Verified

April 5, 2017

For a moment, let us go back to the 1990s.  The Internet was still new, flash animation was “da bomb” (to quote the vernacular of the day), and Web site design was plain HTML.  While you could see prime examples of early Web site design visiting the Internet Archive, but why hit the time machine search button when you can simply visit RefDesk.com.

RefDesk is reminiscent of an old AOL landing page, except it lacks the cheesy graphics and provides higher quality information.  RefDesk is an all-inclusive reference and fact checking Web site that pools links of various sources with quality information into one complete resource.  It keeps things simple with the plain HTML format, then it groups sources together based on content and relevance, such as search engines, news outlets, weather, dictionaries, games, white pages, yellow pages, and specialized topics that change daily.  RefDesk’s mission is to take the guesswork out of the Internet:

The Internet is the world’s largest library containing millions of books, artifacts, images, documents, maps, etc. There is but one small problem in this library: everything is scattered about on the floor, with growing hordes of confused and bewildered users frantically shifting through the maze, occasionally crying out, Great Scott, look at what I just found!’ Enter refdesk.

Refdesk has three goals: (1) fast access, (2) intuitive and easy navigation and (3) comprehensive content, rationally indexed. The prevailing philosophy here is: simplicity. “Simplicity is the natural result of profound thought.” And, very difficult to achieve.

Refdesk is the one stop source to find verified, credible resources because a team dedicated to fishing out the facts from the filth that runs amuck on other sites runs it.  It set up shop in 1995 and the only thing that has changed is the information.  It might be basic, it might be a tad bland, but the content is curated to ensure credibility.

Elementary school kids take note; you can use this on your history report.

Whitney Grace, April 5, 2017

 

U.S. Government Keeping Fewer New Secrets

February 24, 2017

We have good news and bad news for fans of government transparency. In their Secrecy News blog, the Federation of American Scientists’ reports, “Number of New Secrets in 2015 Near Historic Low.” Writer Steven Aftergood explains:

The production of new national security secrets dropped precipitously in the last five years and remained at historically low levels last year, according to a new annual report released today by the Information Security Oversight Office.

There were 53,425 new secrets (‘original classification decisions’) created by executive branch agencies in FY 2015. Though this represents a 14% increase from the all-time low achieved in FY 2014, it is still the second lowest number of original classification actions ever reported. Ten years earlier (2005), by contrast, there were more than 258,000 new secrets.

The new data appear to confirm that the national security classification system is undergoing a slow-motion process of transformation, involving continuing incremental reductions in classification activity and gradually increased disclosure. …

Meanwhile, ‘derivative classification activity,’ or the incorporation of existing secrets into new forms or products, dropped by 32%. The number of pages declassified increased by 30% over the year before.

A marked decrease in government secrecy—that’s the good news. On the other hand, the report reveals some troubling findings. For one thing, costs are not going down alongside classifications; in fact, they rose by eight percent last year. Also, response times to mandatory declassification requests (MDRs) are growing, leaving over 14,000 such requests to languish for over a year each. Finally, fewer newly classified documents carry the “declassify in ten years or less” specification, which means fewer items will become declassified automatically down the line.

Such red-tape tangles notwithstanding, the reduction in secret classifications does look like a sign that the government is moving toward more transparency. Can we trust the trajectory?

Cynthia Murrell, February 24, 2017

Big Data Is a Big Mess

January 18, 2017

Big Data and Cloud Computing were supposed to make things easier for the C-Suites to take billion dollar decisions. But it seems things have started to fall apart.

In an article published by Forbes titled The Data Warehouse Has Failed, Will Cloud Computing Die Next?, the author says:

A company that sells software tools designed to put intelligence controls into data warehousing environments says that traditional data warehousing approaches are flaky. Is this just a platform to spin WhereScape wares, or does Whitehead have a point?

WhereScape, a key player in Data Warehousing is admitting that the buzzwords in the IT industry are fizzing out. The Big Data is being generated, in abundance, but companies still are unsure what to do with the enormous amount of data that their companies produce.

Large corporations who already have invested heavily in Big Data are yet to find any RoIs. As the author points out:

Data led organizations have no idea how good their data is. CEOs have no idea where the data they get actually comes from, who is responsible for it etc. yet they make multi million pound decisions based on it. Big data is making the situation worse not better.

Looks like after 3D-Printing, another buzzword in the tech world, Big Data and Cloud Computing is going to be just a fizzled out buzzword.

Vishal Ingole, January 18, 2017

On-Demand Business Model Not Sure Cash Flow

December 23, 2016

The on-demand car service Uber established a business model that startups in Silicon Valley and other cities are trying to replicate.  These startups are encountering more overhead costs than they expected and are learning that the on-demand economy does not generate instant cash flow.  The LA Times reports that, “On-Demand Business Models Have Put Some Startups On Life Support.”

Uber uses a business model revolving around independent contractors who use their own vehicles as a taxi service that responds to individual requests.  Other startups have sprung up around the same on-demand idea, but with a variety of services.  These include flower delivery service BloomThat, on-demand valet parking Zirx, on-demand meals Spoonrocket, and housecleaning with Homejoy.  The problem these on-demand startups are learning is that they have to deal with overhead costs, such as renting storage spaces, parking spaces, paying for products, delivery vehicles, etc.

Unlike Uber, which relies on the independent contractor to cover the costs of vehicles, other services cannot rely on the on-demand business model due to the other expenses.  The result is that cash is gushing out of their companies:

It’s not just companies that are waking up to the fact being “on-demand” doesn’t guarantee success — the investor tide has also turned.  As the downturn leads to more cautious investment, on-demand businesses are among the hardest-hit; funding for such companies fell in the first quarter of this year to $1.3 billion, down from $7.3 billion six months ago.  ‘If you look in venture capital markets, the on-demand sector is definitely out of favor,’ said Ajay Chopra, a partner at Trinity Ventures who is an investor in both Gobble and Zirx.

These new on-demand startups have had to change their business models in order to remain in business and that requires dismantling the on-demand service model.  On-demand has had its moment in the sun and will remain a lucrative model for some services, but until we invent instant teleportation most companies cannot run on that model.

Whitney Grace, December 23, 2016

Potential Tor Browser Vulnerability Reported

December 19, 2016

Over at Hacker Noon, blogger “movrcx” reveals a potential vulnerability chain that he says threatens the entire Tor Browser ecosystem in, “Tor Browser Exposed: Anti-Privacy Implantation at Mass Scale.” Movrcx says the potential avenue for a massive hack has existed for some time, but taking advantage of these vulnerabilities would require around $100,000. This could explain why movrcx’s predicted attack seems not to have taken place. Yet. The write-up summarizes the technique:

Anti-Privacy Implantation at Mass Scale: At a high-level the attack path can be described by the following:

*Attacker gains custody of an addons.mozilla.org TLS certificate (wildcard preferred)

*Attacker begins deployment of malicious exit nodes

*Attacker intercepts the NoScript extension update traffic for addons.mozilla.org

*Attacker returns a malicious update metadata file for NoScript to the requesting Tor Browser

*The malicious extension payload is downloaded and then silently installed without user interaction

*At this point remote code execution is gained

*The attacker may use an additional stage to further implant additional software on the machine or to cover any signs of exploitation

This attack can be demonstrated by using Burp Suite and a custom compiled version of the Tor Browser which includes a hardcoded root certificate authority for transparent man-in-the-middle attacks.

See the article for movrcx’s evidence, reasoning, and technical details. He emphasizes that he is revealing this information in the hope that measures will be taken to nullify the potential attack chain. Preferably before some state or criminal group decides to invest in leveraging it.

Cynthia Murrell, December 19, 2016

A Crisis of Confidence

December 14, 2016

I remember a time, long ago, when my family was confident that newspapers and TV reporters were telling us most of the objective facts most of the time. We also had faith that, though flawed human beings, most  representatives in Congress were honestly working hard for (what they saw as) positive change. Such confidence, it seems, has gone the way of pet rocks and parachute pants. The Washington Examiner reports, “Fishwrap: Confidence in Newspapers, TV News Hits Bottom.” The brief write-up gives the highlights of a recent Gallup survey. Writer Paul Bedard tells us:

Gallup found that just 20 percent have confidence in newspapers, a 10-point drop in 10 years. TV news saw an identical 10-point drop, from 31 percent to 21 percent. But it could be worse. Of all the institutions Gallup surveyed on, Congress is at the bottom, with just 9 percent having confidence in America’s elected leaders, a finding that is clearly impacting the direction and tone of the 2016 elections. And Americans aren’t putting their faith in religion. Gallup found that confidence in organized religion dropped below 50 percent, to an all-time low of 41 percent.

Last decade’s financial crisis, the brunt of which many are still feeling, has prompted us to also lose faith in our banks (confidence dropped from 49 percent in 2006 to just 27 percent this year). There is one institution in which Americans still place our confidence—the military. Some 73 percent of are confident of that institution, a level that has been constant over the last decade. Could that have anything to do with the outsized share of tax revenue that segment consistently rakes in? Nah, that can’t be it.

Cynthia Murrell, December 14, 2016

The One Percent Have Privately Disappeared

December 8, 2016

People like to think that their lives are not always monitored, especially inside their domiciles.  However, if you have installed any type of security camera, especially a baby monitor, the bad news is that they are easily hacked.  Malware can also be downloaded onto a computer to spy on you through the built-in camera.  Mark Zuckerberg  coves his laptop’s camera with a piece of electrical tape.  With all the conveniences to spy on the average individual, it is not surprising that the rich one percent are literally buying their privacy by disappearing.  FT.com takes a look about, “How The Super-Rich Are Making Their Homes ‘Invisible.’”

The article opens with a description about how an entire high-end California neighborhood exists, but it is digitally “invisible” on Google Street View.  Celebrities live in this affluent California neighborhood and the management company does not even give interviews.  Privacy is one of the greatest luxuries one can buy in this age and the demand will grow as mobile Internet usages increases.  The use of cameras is proportional to Internet usage.

People who buy privacy by hiding their homes want to avoid prying eyes, such a paparazzi and protect themselves from burglars.  The same type of people who buy privacy are also being discreet about their wealth.  They do not flaunt it, unlike previous eras.  In the business sector, more and more clients want to remain anonymous so corporations are creating shell businesses to protect their identities.

There is an entire market for home designs that hide the actual building from prying eyes.  The ultimate way to disappear, however, is to live off the grid:

For extra stealth, property owners can take their homes off the grid — generating their own electricity and water supply avoids tell-tale pipes and wires heading on to their land. Self-sufficient communities have become increasingly popular for privacy, as well as ecological, reasons; some estimates suggest that 180,000 households are living off the grid in the US alone.

Those people who live off the grid will also survive during a zombie apocalypse, but I digress.

It is understandable that celebrities and others in the public eye require more privacy than the average citizen, but we all deserve the same privacy rights.  But it brings up another question: information needs to be found in order to be used.  Why should some be able to disappear while others cannot?

Whitney Grace, December 8, 2016

Sugar Polluted Scientific Research

October 19, 2016

If your diet includes too much sugar, it is a good idea to cut back on the amount you consume.  If also turns out if you have too much sugar in your research, the sugar industry will bribe you to hide the facts.  Stat News reports that even objective academic research is not immune from corporate bribes in the article, “Sugar Industry Secretly Paid For Favorable Harvard Research.”

In the 1960s, Harvard nutritionists published two reviews in medical journals that downplayed the role sugar played in coronary heart disease.  The sugar industry paid Harvard to report favorable results in scientific studies.  Dr. Cristin Kearns published a paper in JAMA Internal Medicine about her research into the Harvard sugar conspiracy.

Through her research, she discovered that Harvard nutrionists Dr. Fredrick Stare and Mark Hegsted worked with the Sugar Research Foundation to write a literature review that countered early research that linked sucrose to coronary heart disease.  This research would later help the sugar industry increase its market share by convincing Americans to eat a low-fat diet.

Dr. Walter Willett, who knew Hegsted and now runs the nutrition department at Harvard’s public health school, defended him as a principled scientist…‘However, by taking industry funding for the review, and having regular communications during the review with the sugar industry,’ Willett acknowledged, it ‘put him [Hegsted] in a position where his conclusions could be questioned. It is also possible that these relationships could induce some subtle bias, even if unconscious,’ he added.

In other words, corporate funded research can skew scientific data so that it favors their bottom dollar.  This fiasco happened in the 1960s, have things gotten worse or better?  With the big competition for funding and space in scientific journals, the answer appears to be yes.

Whitney Grace, October 19, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

You Too Can Be an Expert Searcher

October 4, 2016

One would think that in the days of instant information, we all would be expert searchers and know how to find any fact.  The problem is that most people type entire questions into search engines and allow natural language processing to do the hard labor.  There is a smarter way to search than lazy question typing and Geek Squad has an search literacy guide you might find useful: “Search Engine Secrets: Find More With Google’s Hidden Features.”

What very few people know (except us search gurus) is that search engines have hidden tricks you can use you find your results quicker and make search easier.  While Google is the standard search engine and all these tricks are geared towards that search engine, they will also work with other ones.  The standard way to search is by typing a query into the search bar and some of these typing tricks are old school, such as using parentheses for an exact phrase, searching one specific Web site, wildcards, Boolean operators, and using a minus sigh (-) to exclude terms.

Searching for pictures is a much newer search form and is usually done by clicking on the image search on a search engine.  However, did you know that most search engines have the option to search with an image itself?  With Google, simply drag and drop an image into the search bar to start the process.  There are also delimiters on image search to filter results by specifics, such as GIFs, size, color, and others

Even newer than image search is vocal search with a microphone.  Usually, voice search is employed with a digital assistant like Cortana and Siri.  Some voice search commands are:

  •  Find a movie: What movies are playing tonight? or Where’s Independence Day playing?
  • Find nearby places: Where’s the closest cafe?
  • Find the time: What time is it in Melbourne?
  • Answer trivia questions: Where was Albert Einstein born? or How old is Beyonce?
  • Translate words or phrases: How do you say milk in Spanish?
  • Define a word: What does existentialism mean?
  • Convert between units: What’s 16 ounces in grams?
  • Solve a math problem: What’s the square root of 2,209?

Book a restaurant table: Book a table for two at Dorsia on Wednesday night.

The only problem is that only the typing tricks transfer to professional research.  They are used at universities, research institutes, and even large companies.  The biggest problem is that people do not know how to use them in those organizations.

Whitney Grace, October 4, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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